Autotech Ventures raises more than $150 million with an eye on ground transportation startups

Picture taken with a long-time exposure shows cars driving in the evening at the federal highway A40 in Essen on September 26, 2019. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
Picture taken with a long-time exposure shows cars driving in the evening at the federal highway A40 in Essen on September 26, 2019. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
Kirsten Korosec

Autotech Ventures popped on the scene three years ago with a $120 million debut fund and a plan to invest in early-stage ground transportation startups. Now, with investments in 26 startups and a handful of exits, including Xnor.ai, DeepScale and Frontier Car Group, the venture firm is back with a new, bigger fund and the same strategy.

Autotech Ventures has raised more than $150 million in its second fund with capital commitments from both financial and corporate investors, including Volvo Group Venture Capital AB, Lear, Bridgestone and Stoneridge, as well as other vehicle manufacturers, parts suppliers, repair shop chains, leasing corporations, dealership groups and trucking firms.

The new fund brings the firm to more than $270 million under management to date.

While Autotech's funds include institutional financial investors, it has largely focused on corporation.

"The corporate LP base is a key part of our strategy as a firm and a key differentiator for us," Daniel Hoffer, managing director at Autotech, said in a recent interview with TechCrunch. "At a high level we provide capital, transportation market intelligence and access to large corporations in the industry, including our LPs. Startups really value those connections because we can accelerate their go-to market and their distribution channels in addition to providing greater access to other forms of business development and even M&A opportunities."

The firm typically aims for the seed and Series A sweet spot. But it occasionally will participate in Series B and later-stage funding rounds, Hoffer said. Its new $150 million-plus fund will target early-stage startups in several sectors that fall under the "ground transportation and mobility" umbrella, including connectivity, autonomy, shared-use mobility, electrification and digital enterprise applications.

Autotech Ventures does invest globally, although the majority of its investments are in the U.S. Outside of North America, the firm has a proportionate interest in Europe and Israel, according to Hoffer.

Some of its notable investments include computer vision startup DeepScale (which was snapped up by Tesla last year), Lyft, used vehicle marketplace operator Frontier Car Group, Outdoorsy, Swvl, parking app SpotHero, Volta Charging and Xnor.ai, which Apple acquired in January.

Hoffer said the firm is sensitive to the well-hyped trends, such as autonomous vehicle technology, that everybody is chasing, but it also is interested in the more niche opportunities that people might be less aware of.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has upended the shared mobility sector, ride-hailing and public transportation, has Hoffer and his fellow Autotech venture capitalists focused on logistics and supply chain visibility — two areas that have promise in this "COVID-oriented world."

Autotech is also interested in overlooked opportunities, such as software that enables the industry to execute recalls, and even visibility into junkyard inventory, Hoffer added. The company also sees investment opportunities in "off highway" autonomous vehicle technology ventures, such as in mining and construction.